Last Sunday night, Karen Domaloan had an unusually vivid dream about her son, Michael. “He used to come to me in dreams all the time,” she said when we talked on Monday afternoon. “But now it’s just on certain days, like on my birthday, and then last night, I guess because the anniversary’s coming up.” By “anniversary,” Karen meant that the date of her son’s death had come around again.
On the night of September 17, 2003, Michael was shot three times, once in the leg, once in the shoulder, once in the back. The latter wound caused extensive damage to multiple organs and was the fatal one.
“With a wound like that people can be walking around and all the time they’re bleeding out internally,” said Dr. Juan Carrillo, a deputy medical examiner in the LA County’s Coroner’s office, and the man who performed the autopsy on Michael Domaloan.
Michael was pronounced dead at Northridge Medical Center at thirty-eight minutes after midnight, on September 18, exactly six years ago.
When any parent who loses a child, healing comes with difficulty, if at all. Karen thinks the dream was one more marginal step toward whatever healing she will ever gain. In it, she said, Michael reenacted what had happened on the night he died, taking her through the moments step by step. “I know it sounds weird,” she told me, “But I felt like he thought I was finally ready to hear it.”
Dreams notwithstanding, certain facts are in dispute about the night of September 17, 2003. Still there is much that can be known. We know that Michael Domaloan, 21, and Felix Quiroz, 23, were each shot outside a club named Bub Blars that was located nearby to Cal State Northridge. We know that for each of the two young men, the wounds were fatal.
We also know that the club, which has since closed, was favored by a mostly 20-something crowd who came for the flavored tobacco that one could smoke in large, exotic-looking hookas. They came too for the socializing and for the weekly open mic rap battles.
We also know that before Michael and his friends made it inside the club, a series of events occurred involving several groups of highly intoxicated and truculent young men. whose shouts and drunken bravado led to two separate physical fights. The last fight led to tragedy.
One of the groups was Michael and company , who, in the last years or so, had loosely formed themselves into a party crew that they had named Insane Hispanics. IH for short. The other group was made up of another party crew that called itself Loked Up Kriminals or LUK.
Some party or tagging crews morph eventually into full fledged shooting, drug-dealing gangs and LUK showed some signs of heading that direction. But in 2003 both crews were mostly groups of young men who drank too much on the weekend then sometimes got into fist fights. During the week, the majority of the crew members went back to their jobs and girlfriends and lives. But with LUK anyway, there were starting to be guns in evidence.
The first of the fights occurred when Michael and Felix and some of their friends, both male and female, were in Bub Blar’s parking lot preparing to go inside when a guy named Maarouf Mansour pulled up in his car, his sound system pumped up glass-shatteringly loud. Mansour was a member of a real gang— Brown Pride Surrenos—and he was drunk and bored. After Mansour allegedly “hit up” several of the club patrons—i.e. asked them what gang they were from. After that, Monsour, Felix and Michael exchanged a volley of verbal challenges, followed by a bizarre fist fight in which, for the duration of the slugfest, Mansour stayed in the driver’s seat of his car while he and the other two flailed at each other. Mansour at one point even bit Michael.
After a several minutes of mutual pummeling, one of the owners of the club called the police, then tried to break the fight up. After a bit more posturing, the fighters scattered.
Mansour did not return to the club. After he left Bub Blars was stopped by police, and subsquently arrested when officers found a hand gun hidden in his vehicle’s console.
However, Michael and company came back a half hour or so later. When they did, they ran into the LUK faction who had heard about the earlier fight and now appeared to want one of their own. Among the the LUK contingent was a banty rooster of a kid named Chris Landros who had a girlfriend working at Bub Blars. Like Michael and friends, Landros seemed to be looking for a reason to throw some righteous punches—and began, as he himself put it, “talking shit” to some of the IH crew.
Within minutes, the shouts, insults, challenges and taunts escalated into blows. Although around six young men took part in the brawl, after a while, the three primary fighters were Michael, Felix and Chris Landros, while a crowd from both groups plus some strangers hovered. One of the hovering LUK guys was Alijandro Murillo, a twenty-something with a fade haircut who had been reported by witnesses to be openly displaying a gun a few minutes before the fight. When the fight got started, he allegedly pulled the gun.
Just before midnight, by his own account, Murillo fired between five and seven shots at the combatants. He hit Felix once. He hit Chris Landros once by accident, but the wound was not serious. He hit Michael three times. One of the shots—the killing shot—was fired at nearly point blank range according to Dr. Carrillo. “I’d say the shooter was one to three inches away,” he told me. “We can tell because of the soot and the stippling on the body.”
Murillo would later say that he blasted at the fighters only to save Chris Landros’ life. However Landros himself would testify in court that the last few shots were fired when he had already broken away from the fight and was safely inside Bub Blars.
Alejandro Murillo, was arrested a month and a half later in the very early hours of November 4.
The arrest took place at his parents’ house where he often spent time. Murrillo must have seen the police coming up the front walk. He ran to the back of the house and began fumbling with the lock on a sliding glass door, evidently intending to flee. An LAPD officer named Rodriguez was stationed in the yard, expressly to guard against this possibility. When Alejandro spotted the backyard cop, he slammed the glass door closed again and ran into the house where he encountered still more police.
In their post-arrest search, officers fished a loaded Colt .38 revolver out from under the living room couch, its serial number filed off. (Murillo later admitted the gun was his.) They also found baggies amounting to 23.5 grams of crystal meth in the same vicinity.
At Murillo’s own dwelling, the cops found another gun—a .22 semi-automatic— plus ammunition for four different kinds of firearms.
Among the other property seized, the police listed several items they characterized as gang related. There were four computer print outs that read Loked Up Criminals—”Loked-up” being slang for crazy—plus two notebooks with supposed “gang writings” inside them, one allegedly containing a sort of organizational manifesto for LUK.
Officers transported Alex Murrillo back to the Devonshire division police station. There, two interesting things happened:
As lead detective John Fleming prepared to begin questioning his suspect, Murillo said he wanted to talk to his brother.
Incredibly the detectives complied right away with the request made by their multiple gun possessing, double murder suspect.
As it happens, finding Alijandro Murillo’s older brother was no problem. He was LAPD Officer Ignacio Murrillo of Devonshire division, badge No.34879, who, serendipitously, turned out to be on duty that day..
The police report suggests that the two brothers were permitted to meet privately. According to the report, after Murillo the murder suspect finished meeting with Murillo the cop, suspect Murillo told the detectives, that if “he was to be interviewed it would be by Detective Oppelt â€¦ or Officer Holmes.”
Once more the detectives acquiesced to Murillo’s dictation of terms. Detective Oppelt was dutifully fetched. The record shows that he read Suspect Murillo his Miranda rights. Murillo waived his rights.
And the interview began.
TO BE CONTINUED….